Seat of the week: Barton

This week we visit yet another endangered Labor seat in Sydney which the party is unaccustomed to losing.

Barton has covered Kogarah and surrounding areas on the north shore of the Georges River since its creation in 1922, currently extending north through Rockdale to Earlwood and Kingsgrove. Past members for Barton include Herbert “Doc” Evatt, who won the seat from the United Australia Party in 1940 and held it until 1958, when he moved to Hunter after close shaves in 1951 (when World War II hero Nancy Wake, running for the Liberals, came within 243 votes of victory) and 1955 (when Evatt prevailed by 226 votes). The seat nonetheless stayed with Labor until the 1966 disaster, subsequently changing hands along with government in 1975 and 1983. Gary Punch held the seat for generally narrow margins in the 1980s, but put enough fat on the margin in 1993 that his successor Robert McClelland survived the 1996 landslide.

A member of the NSW Right, McClelland held a series of senior portfolios after entering the shadow ministry in 1998 and served as Attorney-General since the election of the Rudd government. McClelland emerged as an important part of the Kevin Rudd camp during Julia Gillard’s prime ministership, an association going back to Rudd’s ascendancy over Kim Beazley in December 2006. An oblique reference by McClelland to the AWU affair in June 2012 was invoked as validating the subsequent blizzard of media interest in the matter, and was generally seen as a deliberate effort to undermine her. He had been dropped from the ministry after Rudd’s failed leadership bid the previous February, which followed two months from his demotion to emergency management and housing.

McClelland announced in January 2013 that he would bow out at the election, causing concern to Labor that the NSW government might seek to precipitate a by-election by offering him a position on the state’s Industrial Relations Commission. Reports in mid-2011 suggested McClelland was being advised to step aside to avoid a preselection stoush. It was thought the seat might provide an entry for former Premier Morris Iemma, who told the media he would not be interested if it involved “backstabbing friends”. The Iemma for Barton idea was again raised in October 2012 by Bob Carr, who speculating on the possibility that McClelland might decide to retire. When that duly came to pass in January 2013, Iemma did not emerge as a starter for the seat, encouraging the conclusion that he was not fancying Labor’s electoral prospects.

Labor will instead take the field with Steve McMahon, chief executive of the NSW Trainers Association (as in thoroughbred horses) and former mayor of Hurstville. McMahon won a local preselection ballot with 128 preselection votes against 101 for Shane O’Brien, Rockdale mayor and NSW Public Service Association assistant secretary, a former adviser to Tony Burke. McMahon reportedly had backing from Morris Iemma and state upper house MP Shaoquett Moselmane, key to votes from the Lebanese Muslim community, leading O’Brien to complain that his own support had come instead from “free-thinking individuals”. O’Brien’s opponents accused him of being a sore loser who had himself had courted the Macedonian and Greek vote. Moselmane had himself been a nominee early in the process but he quickly withdrew, amid suggestions he was merely seeking leverage to shore up his position on the upper house ticket.

The Liberal candidate is Nick Varvaris, accountant and mayor of Kogarah.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

1,124 comments on “Seat of the week: Barton”

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  1. poroti:

    I need to go and cook dinner, but you’ve made me laugh out loud that you can find the sheepens angle in all of this. 😆

    I love it. 😀

  2. The ding dong witches dead thing is quite fascinating.

    As I understand it the song wasn’t re-written, it contains no swearing, no nudity, no violence. The BBC has banned in because it of an association with an idea. And because of that association it shot to number three in that charts.

  3. meher baba

    Ah the joys of FPTP but 57-58% of the electorate consistently saying NO when it comes to voting for her party is pretty clear.

  4. Re: Ding Dong the Witch is Dead. I want to see a new video version with Arthur Scargill leading the singing of “we represent the lollipop guild….

  5. [Ah the joys of FPTP but 57-58% of the electorate consistently saying NO when it comes to voting for her party is pretty clear.]

    Clearer than the 62% who said NO when it came to voting for Labor in 2010?

  6. poroti@1103. At his three election wins, Blair only got 43%, 40% and 35%. So, by your measure, no Government in Britain for decades has ever represented the majority of the electorate.

    First past the post elections with single member electorates are different. You have to assume that, under Thatcher, Major and Blair, most of the people voting for other parties whose vote was wasted chose to do so in full knowledge that this would happen.

  7. [Last year, the industry, which was reprivatised in 1994, produced just 17.8 million tonnes of coal at 52 mines and employed just 6,419 people]

    In the UK in 2012….2773 tonnes per employee per year, or maybe around 1.4 tonnes per worker per FT hour…nowhere near enough to be competitive.

    In Australia in 1999, in black coal production…..24,000 workers produced 220 million tonnes of coal, or 9,166 tonnes per worker per year, 4.76 tonnes per worker per FT hour.

    fwiw, I think Margaret Thatcher had seen the miners take on and defeat successive Governments – Wilson, Heath, Callaghan. The miners again chose political confrontation by industrial means. Bad idea, in retrospect.

  8. Well I’m no fan of Thatcher being of Irish descent many ancestors ago. However, she has been irrelevant for a long time and her death doesn’t really give me any joy or any emotion except incredulity that people actually liked her..but I suppose it is a Tory government. I had the same feeling about Reagan too.

    As for people celebrating her death. Well if people can brandish ‘Ditch the Witch’ in Sydney over the PM- totally disgraceful and distasteful, then they can be equally as disgraceful and distasteful about Thatcher in London. Both places being in democratic countries. I suspect that many of the former are complaining about the latter which makes for interesting speculation about hypocrisy and consistency.

  9. [Primary Votes: ALP 29 (-2) L/NP 49 (+2)]

    oh dear! what happened to Fraudband? i was sure Labor would get a bounce from it.

  10. feeney@1067

    Thatcher was the most divisive figure in British politics, whose policies caused much hardship and misery to so many decent hard-working people. She just did not care.

    Her family is entitled to be accorded respect in their loss.

    Thatcher is not entitled to anything.

    But the protests don’t hurt Thatcher, they hurt her family.

  11. Confessions:

    [I feel for her family, it must be awfully distressing to see that so soon after she passed away.]

    Meh … it’s harmless and cathartic street theatre. When she was in charge, she sent actually mounted police to trample actual living strikers. She was a particularly nasty public figure, and these are folks expressing a view on her legacy. Effigies are traditional. People burn flags and other symbols.

    If people feel this way and want to take the chance to send a message about their views on how she dealt with people, it’s hard to object. That’s a part of democracy surely.

    Given that her work has outlived her and austerity is still being visited on the public, it’s an understandable visceral response.

  12. From the other thread
    jaundiced view
    Posted Saturday, April 13, 2013 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    Simon Crean has so little talent for politics that he worked his way though the party in Victoria, arrangd the factional settings, did the necessary deals, recruited new supporters, performed roles at many levels of party and government, and because of what the party saw in him, was elected to high parliamentary office, and then as party leader.

    According to the supporters of the old affiliated union hacks this now amounts to: “He is a complete idiot”.

    Bit of rewriting history there, jaundiced? No doubt to validate your theory thst everything Labor currently does is bad. Crean got his degree on merit, but just about everything else fell into his lap.

    Being the son old Frank helped a bit to start and then going under the wing of Landeryou at the Storeman and Packers Union also helped advancement. Then up the ACTU ladder via Hawke and Kelty. By the time he made a bid for parliament, he was marked as a rising star and went straight onto the front bench.

    The only time he really got close to the rank and file is when the factional bosses wanted to roll him and Beasley refused to help. He did then stage a successful rearguard action through the electoral college votes and held off the attack. Other than that, he’s had a cosy run. See Latham’s AFR piece on the hereditary peers in Labor and their sense of entitlement.

    And you claim no progress. Removing them from key areas of power has to be some progress.

  13. and I am guessing national service

    I would put nothing past him

    of course the lib

    love national service as long as its not them
    they also love sending people to salt mines as long its not them

    then owing two or three houses while the rest look in rubbish bins

    it will never be them

    but I they plunge us in to a depression with their ideas of managing the countries finacnes my god I hope it is them
    and we also know int, rates are highter with them theink back

  14. we have the small l liberals

    that say ‘ look abbott want last. turnbull take over”

    no he want,,,, abbott will last id say 9 years

    9 miserable years of , nasty policies

    by then you want recognise the country

    you may even think you live in Russia or an easter block country.

    we want have medi care or the pbs,

    the grandchildren will have to pay their uni fees up front

    and I suppose we will join all the American wars.

    howard was mr 17 percent and he was there for 11 years

    was it,

    so full your selves the risk is to great

    if you are an lnp voter, if the gov, is returned

    yes abbott will not be leader of the opp
    there is your chance to elect a leader of quality

    from some where in the younger ranks

    so wait another three years if your rusted on

    un less you want all the above to happen

    fantasy you say,,, well we just don’t know

    he tells you nothing
    he is after all thinking he is dear leader

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